Monday, 15 March 2010

67: my Metal has lost its shine...

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Wow, first blog in a couple of months. Nothing blogworthy been happening I'm afraid. If it's amused or annoyed me, I've been able to express it in 140 characters and tweet it to the world. If you don't already, you can follow my stream of opinionated profanities at:

This morning, however, I've been pondering over something that's just occurred to be. It hasn't suddenly "happened", I've been aware of it for quite some time now, but I now know that the transformation is more or less complete. Heavy Metal in the 21st century is wank, isn't it? The fact that I refer to it as "heavy metal" gives a large clue as to my age bracket, I know. This in turn reinforces my belief that I've turned into an old rocker.

I'm going to see a metal band this Saturday. They're what I class as a "new" band (not nu-metal, just new), but they're very well-respected all the same. I'm going to see them with my 15yr-old nephew, who loves them. I'll call them Band X. As I said, I know of Band X, but don't know anything by them. They've got four or five albums out, and that seems like a lot for me to try and 'learn' before I go and see them. Obviously, I want to know their stuff when I see them live. The noisier the music, the more difficult it is to appreciate 'fresh' when it's live (IMHO). So, I went onto Setlist.FM, and looked up Band X's setlists from other gigs on the current tour. With a good idea of what they're going to play, I then zip over to iTunes to download the tracks. Tracks downloaded, re-tagged, all set to go.

Fuck me, it's dull.

It shouldn't be dull, even I know that. All the ingredients are there: Double-bass drumming, screaming vocals, melodic vocals widdly guitars. Trouble is, I was listening to this shit 15-20 years ago. There's nothing in this collection of tracks that I can't find in Iron Maiden's Powerslave, Metallica's ...And Justice For All, Fear Factory's Soul of a New Machine or Machine Head's Burn My Eyes. Okay, it's all rolled into one band, but even then I know that Band X aren't unique in combining all of this. It should be said that I'm not having a go at Band X for this, the issue lies in what I find interesting these days. In fact, that is the issue: modern Metal just doesn't interest me. One of the reasons I stopped playing in bands is that it was starting to bore me (the noisy stuff, anyway).

When I started getting into "metal" in 1986, it was well underway (obviously) and there had been shifts in the sub-genres even then. Old-school rock had spawned NWoBHM, Glam and Thrash. I went from 'rock' down the heavier route, and ended up listening to Death and Grind, before evening out and listening to pretty much anything guitar-based. Around 2000, the genre re-booted with nu-metal, a lot of which incorporated hip-hop (but properly this time, not just long-haired blokes playing at being rappers). Since then metal has morphed and re-morphed, but with the exception of bands with female singers being taken seriously (Vixen, anyone?), it doesn't seem like there's anything really new there. I skip around the rock/metal channels on the TV and it just bores the arse off me. The strange thing is, I still love my 'old' metal collection, but I'm not sure if that's familiarity and nostalgia tinting my view. If Demanufacture had only been released last year, would I love it as much? I doubt it. Even the last Slayer album sounded "by the numbers" to me.

Which leads me to one conclusion: Metal may not be changing any more, but I am. I've grown out of it.

The young, long-haired me would listen to the mid-30's short-haired me saying this and begin to boil with self-righteous rage. "You've sold out!" he'd say, "You've gone mainstream! I bet you listen to dance music!". But the young, long-haired me was a naive twat. It's not about listening to the most evil music, pulling faces in the mirror and wearing your Deicide shirt when you walk past a church. It's not about thinking the only way to express your opinion is screaming incomprehensibly at a ridiculous volume (which, ironically, completely masks what you're actually saying). And it's certainly not about thinking that the only music that has artistic merit deals with pain, suffering, and the bizarre martydom that the metal kids revel in.

It's about being happy with what you're listening to. It's about smiling when your favourite song comes on. Life has enough fucking grief in the day to day, that when I get out of work and put my headphones on, I want to be reminded that there are good things out there, like beer and laughing and mates.

This is why I love Bowling for Soup.

In fact, this is why I'm a rocker these days, and proud to be labelled as such. Fear Factory's Soul of a New Machine is almost twenty years old. I still think that a 20yr old album is 'cutting edge', and has more artistic merit than much of what's released today. I still call CDs "albums". I'm officially an Old Rocker.

The three best gigs I've seen in the last twelve months have been Bowling For Soup, Electric Six, and Europe. Yes, Europe. Are you listening, young, long-haired me? Europe's live show was WAY superior to the times I've seen Cradle of Filth, and even Fear Factory. Because as well as playing an astounding set with a sound that was constantly trying to punch out of the box it was in, Europe enjoyed themselves, and made everyone in that audience smile. Including me. Especially me.

I'm going to see MC Lars in a few weeks. Then Bowling For Soup in April. And Electric Six in December. I've seen all of those before. BFS and E6 many times. I'm going to have a good time, and there's fucking nothing that the young, long-haired, moody me can do about it.


(oh, by the way. Band X? That'd be Trivium.)

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.